Prescription Stimulant Misuse and Abuse Program

By: Samantha Greeney

Studies have found that university students are misusing prescription stimulants disproportionately to other prescription medications (SAMSHA, 2010 and CPDS). Students often experiment with prescription stimulants due to misperceived benefits associated with their use, without realizing their increased risks of negative consequences. Due to the high rates of prescription stimulant misuse, colleges and universities provide an important setting for interventions aimed at assisting young adults in understanding the risks involved in using prescription stimulants inappropriately.

At a large university in Southern California, we implemented a program titled “Rx MAP.” Its main goals were to correct misperceptions and decrease prescription stimulant misuse among one of the highest risk groups for college student stimulant misuse: fraternity members. The goals of the Rx MAP (Prescription Stimulant Misuse and Abuse Program) were to impact participants’ knowledge, attitudes, and perceptions about prescription stimulants, with the ultimate goal of affecting the participants’ intent to misuse prescription stimulants.

The workshop-style program was delivered in a variety of locations on and around the campus. The program was facilitated by a Health Educator and lasted approximately one hour. Fraternities received the program based on request. The workshop was comprised of a visual aid, discussion components, and activities. Rx MAP was developed by Health Educators in collaboration with key informants from the community and guided by evidence-based methodologies. The Rx MAP curriculum included the following sections: (1) a knowledge section that addressed the physical and legal risks of prescription stimulant misuse and abuse; and (2) a norms correction section that focused on clarifying potential myths surrounding the benefits, social attitudes, and actual use of prescription stimulants. The program also included an activity, which had students come up with ideas for alternatives to the misuse of prescription stimulants and concluded with a short Q and A session.

To evaluate the program, an identical 25-question measurement was administered pre- and post- presentation. The measurement evaluated participant knowledge, attitudes, perceptions and prescription stimulant behaviors. Knowledge acquisition was measured by assessing participant knowledge on prescription stimulants through multiple-choice assessment. Attitudes were measured by participants’ response of agreement to various prompts related to prescription stimulant use. Perception was measured by both the participant’s impression of how often others misused and others attitudes toward stimulant misuse. Finally, intention was measured by assessing the likelihood of behaviors occurring within the next 3 months, which related to prescription stimulant misuse. Results from the study showed that there were promising changes in the participants’ knowledge, perception, attitude, and behavioral intent from pre- to post-program.

Rx MAP demonstrated that using a norms correction approach to create a collegiate prescription stimulant misuse prevention program can indeed yield encouraging results, specifically among high- risk populations such as the Greek community. The information gained from implementing and evaluating Rx MAP creates a template for an effective prescription stimulant misuse preventive program, progressing the field of preventative programming.

Photo of Samantha GreeneyThe programming was made possible through a grant received from Cardinal Health Foundation.

Samantha has a Master of Public health in Health Promotion and Behavioral Science and is a Certified Health Education Specialist. In her position as a Health Educator at San Diego State University, Samantha plans and implements a variety of health and wellness programming, outreach events, and presentations on campus.